Antonio Conte’s departure from Inter sent shockwaves through Italian and European football on Wednesday.
Just weeks after leading the Nerazzurri to their first Scudetto in 11 seasons, Conte left San Siro by mutual consent, amid reports of the Inter board needing to slash the wage bill and sell star players.
The pursuit of major honours and a strained relationship with his bosses have been constant themes of a turbulent two seasons at Inter for the former Juventus, Italy and Chelsea boss.
Below are some of the highs and lows of his two-season tenure.
90 – Antonio #Conte is the only manager to have gained 90+ points with two different sides in the history of the Serie A, considering three points for a win (also for Juventus in 2013/14). Warmth. pic.twitter.com/9sYg8y0FqS
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) May 26, 2021
Winning Serie A
Having left another post abruptly, it remains to be seen what this episode does for Conte’s standing when it comes to further elite coaching positions.
But there can be no doubt he gets results. Conte was brought in to bring down the Juventus dynasty he set in motion and his past three club jobs have now all yielded top-flight titles.
They romped to glory with 91 points this time around, meaning Conte is the first head coach in Serie A history to have gained in excess of 90 points at two clubs, having got 102 at Juve in 2013-14. He left after that one, as well.
Conte is famously terrible at seeing eye to eye with his bosses and one of the reasons his tenure at Chelsea soured was the failure to bring Romelu Lukaku back to Stamford Bridge.
Lukaku’s switch to Manchester United proved the wrong move for both parties and Conte finally got his man in 2019. The outcome has been fairly spectacular.
The Belgium striker’s 72 Serie A appearances for Inter have yielded 47 goals, while his 64 in all competitions since the start of last season puts him joint fifth in Europe’s top five leagues alongside Ciro Immobile, behind Robert Lewandowski (103), Cristiano Ronaldo (73), Kylian Mbappe (69) and Erling Haaland (65).
Kings of Milan
This is a moniker Lukaku applied to himself, mainly as a jibe in Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s direction. But it applied just as much to Inter during Conte’s spell in charge as they enjoyed some stirring victories over bitter rivals Milan.
Overall, in five Derby della Madonnina, Inter won four and lost one. Last season’s 4-2 comeback win in Serie A from 4-2 down was an instant classic
Ibrahimovic opened the scoring, clashed angrily with Lukaku and was sent off in a feisty Coppa Italia clash this January. Lukaku then equalised from the penalty spot and Christian Eriksen sealed victory with a 97th-minute free-kick. Derby wins really do not come any sweeter.
Europa League final heartache
If Conte is a specialist when it comes to domestic league titles, he fell short in the Europa League against the club that has mastered its vagaries better than any other.
Sevilla won the competition for the sixth time this century, prevailing 3-2 in a helter-skelter encounter in Cologne – Lukaku unfortunately deciding the contest with an own goal, having given Inter an early lead via a fifth-minute penalty.
The wider context around the loss probably sowed the seeds for the predicament in which Inter and Conte now find themselves.
Board room ructions
Having failed to lift European silverware and finished second in Serie A, despite Juventus showing some of the cracks that opened so widely this season, Conte was apparently ready to walk after a year in charge and talked cryptically about his prospects of carrying on.
From Lukaku and Eriksen to the likes of Achraf Hakimi, Alexis Sanchez and Ashley Young, Conte has been backed considerably in terms of transfer fees and wages at San Siro.
He rarely acknowledged this in public, frequently saying his squad needed new additions. Inter will have had a very good idea how all this was going to end if – as seems to be the case – cost-cutting is now so high on the agenda.
Champions League failure
Alongside the above concerns over his temperament, Conte’s underwhelming results in the Champions League are another thing that will give prospective future employers pause for thought.
At Juventus and Chelsea, he never got particularly close to winning it and Inter, despite being handed a notably tough group alongside Real Madrid, Borussia Monchengladbach and Shakhtar Donetsk, bowed out at the round-robin stage in 2020-21, finishing bottom.
When he won the Premier League in 2016-17, Chelsea were not burdened by European football. There is unquestionably a disparity between Conte the one-game-a-week coach, who thrives on drilling his players with rigorous detail, and his returns when forced to battle on two fronts.
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